The Role of 5G in Closing the Digital Divide
Updated: Oct 14, 2021
At an event held recently at the Indiana Statehouse, Commissioner Brendan Carr announced the FCC’s next 5G order and unveiled a proposal to cut costs and streamline approval periods for small cells—the physical building blocks of 5G. LGBT Tech has spoken in the past about the importance of launching newer technologies to close the digital divide and specifically how 5G has the potential to transform technological access to unserved and underserved communities such as the LGBTQ community by helping to close the digital divide and allow individuals to access basic yet essential services that can make a tremendous impact.
According to the release, Carr’s plan, set to be voted on at the FCC’s September 25 Open Meeting, aims to reform laws that were typically designed years ago for macro-cells—the 200-foot towers that were built to cover large areas with legacy wireless service. The recently-enacted state small cell bills limit the fees that localities can charge to process construction and permitting applications for small cells, and they require localities to approve or disapprove small cell deployment within a certain time frame.
Most importantly to our community, the action could also help close the digital divide, providing new connections to those who need them most. The economic analysis included by the Commissioner shows that Carr’s plan will see two million more homes served by small cells—97% of them in rural and suburban communities. That is significant since minority communities like the LGBTQ community cannot afford to fall behind in the technology race when adequate access to reliable fast technology can impact everything from healthcare, education, economic opportunities or finding a safe community online and could make a huge difference between success and failure in everyday life. 5G has enormous potential to be a powerful tool to eradicate the digital divide as it has the potential to provide faster communications and increase response times for underserved and unserved communities.
For these reasons, LGBT Tech has consistently supported the FCC efforts to bring 5G technology to the masses as quickly as possible. Technology, through smartphones and wireless broadband networks, connects and empowers the LGBTQ community regardless of their geographic location. The internet has been a lifeline for LGBT people in smaller towns and remote communities, in particular. These areas need to be directly addressed as part of any FCC action. The FCC reports that more than 20 million rural Americans do not have access to broadband. Wireless broadband has the potential to significantly decrease this number. According to a recent article, wireless technologies such as 5G will displace many wireline endpoints in low population density areas, including rural areas. The cost advantage of wireless connections is overwhelming. A spokesperson for the Wireless ISP Association (WISPA) estimates that a wireless connection to a rural endpoint costs one-fifth to one-tenth of a wireline connection.
Bridging the digital divide requires a multi-pronged approach and LGBT Tech urges the FCC to continue its work removing barriers to deployment that will ensure that these much needed new technologies reach those that need it the most as quickly as possible. 5G has enormous potential to be a powerful tool to eradicate the digital divide as it has the potential to provide faster communications and increase response times for underserved and unserved communities.